IT was one of the most horrific attacks ever carried out by one individual on another in Worcester.

As Christmas shoppers fled in panic, Richard Tipping chased his terrified former girlfriend around Debenhams in High Street, knifing her 11 times in the back, face and chest and leaving her on the floor, clinging to life in an ever growing pool of blood.

Amazingly Paula Benson was to survive the multiple stabbing in November 1991, while Tipping ran out of the store and walked to Droitwich, where he dropped his bloodied hunting knife down a drain before boarding a train to Manchester

It was the culmination of a relationship that had always been rather too intense for comfort: Tipping had once threatened to “cut her face into squares” if Paula ever left him.

But when the apprentice electrician told his friends he was going to kill the 19-year-old shop assistant with an axe after she did go, they thought he was only bragging. They dismissed him as an attention seeker, a limelight hunter who liked to impress by performing noisy wheelspins in his car. Sadly they were very wrong.

The couple had been together for 21 months before the breakup that turned Tipping, a gangling youth who liked a laugh over a few pints of cider, into a raging maniac prepared to launch a Psycho-style attack in full public view. They first met in the late 1980s in the Top Cat disco in Malvern, when Paula was 15 and a fifth form pupil at Dyson Perrins Comprehensive in the town. Tipping, who was a few months older, worked for a firm of electrical contractors and studied at college in Worcester part-time.

Their first date at a Children in Need concert in November 1989 was followed by a summer holiday together in the Welsh resort of Barry Island. They even shared jobs together for a time at Perrins House, a private home for the elderly in Malvern. But there were worrying signs for Paula that her outgoing, car-mad boyfriend had a vicious streak. Although he denied it as a fantasy, she was later to tell police he threatened to “cut her face into squares” if ever she ditched him for someone else.

It was also a relationship mirrored by parental crises. Tipping left his mother’s home in Sandringham Close, Malvern, after a violent row and moved in with his grandparents in Duke of Edinburgh Way. While Paula, whose mother rejected Tipping as a suitable boyfriend, stormed out of their home at Hawkwood Close, North Malvern, where she had lived for 10 years, and moved in with her father in Kempsey.

But there really was trouble in store when she started seeing a friend of Tipping’s called Andrew McCabe, a young chef who had also worked at Perrins House. In the late summer of 1991 Paula finally split from Tipping and he became aggressive and depressed. One night he parked his Ford Escort outside Paula’s Kempsey home and saw his ex kissing her new love. From then on, he confessed to police, he was out for revenge.

With McCabe away studying in Sheffield, Paula began to get terrifying warnings from friends that Tipping had plans to murder her with an axe. Then on November 28, 1991 she went to the deputy head of her sixth form college after receiving a message she was to die from poison at her 18th birthday party in a Cheltenham nightclub. This time the police were informed. Chillingly, Tipping turned up as Paula and her friends waited for the coach from Malvern to take them to Cheltenham, but left after being told there were no tickets left for the night.

Unable to spoil her party, he wrought terrible vengeance two days later while Paula was at work in her part-time job in the menswear department of Worcester Debenhams. Christmas shoppers who packed in that afternoon didn’t notice him slip into the store a number of times to check on the dark-haired young woman, but a store detective saw him slide an eight-inch long hunting knife up the sleeve of his bomber jacket in the street outside. Minutes later Tipping walked back through the doors and launched his frenzied attack.

As Paula ran screaming through the store, dodging through clothes racks and around counters in a vain bid to escape, Tipping brought the knife down 11 times. Seven blows penetrated her back and she was also stabbed in the face, arm and shoulder, Both of her lungs collapsed. She eventually lay in a bloody pool near a lift shaft as staff came to her rescue.

Terror-stricken witnesses said Tipping was oblivious to all those around him, fanatical to get at his victim while shoppers scattered in panic, crushing through the store’s doors.

Tipping was chased out of Debenhams into High Street before he turned on his pursuers and threatened them with the knife. He then disappeared into Superdrug opposite and escaped to make his way to Droitwich and then to Manchester, where he was arrested nine days later.

The 19-years-old told police: “I messed up my life just for her. I thought I could get away with it and start again.”

At Birmingham Crown Court in June 1992, Richard Tipping was jailed for life after admitting attempted murder. He was told by Mr Justice Brown: “It is perfectly plain that you were intent on taking another person’s life. It is only by the grace of God you did not achieve that aim.”